Panini Brings The HOF To You With 2012 Cooperstown Baseball

Photobucket

The National Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum is one of the coolest places to go if your a baseball fan.  They have artifacts on display from the early days of the game all the way up to the current time.  I’ve been there three times and its really fun.

Back in February, Panini announced they came to an agreement with the Hall of Fame to produce cards featuring its Hall of Famers and their artifacts.  Its good to see more cards with Hall of Famers on them, but lets face it, its been done many times before and with MLB logos.  What I’m interested to see are the cards about the artifacts.  There are a lot of baseball fans that can’t make it to the Hall of Fame to see these items in person.  Producing cards of the artifacts really brings the Hall of Fame to collectors in a way.  A real nostalgic factor can play in here too.  Pulling a card picturing an item you remember seeing on a trip to Cooperstown with your father could bring back a lot of memories.  The hobby is currently filled with resurrected designs and the same old stuff we see over and over again.  I think this is an interesting way to go.  There is an insert set called “Voices of Summer”.  I asked Panini if Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas was going to be included within it, and they stated they were trying to get him in.

Collectors can look for 2012 Cooperstown Baseball in July.  Each box will contain (1) autograph, (2) commemorative Class Patches, (3) Bronze History cards, (3) Crystal Collection parallels, (2) Voices of Summer inserts, (2) Induction inserts, and (2) Credentials inserts.  The base set will contain 200 cards that includes 20 SP Color Tint cards.  Of coarse cut signatures will be thrown in there too.

Advertisements

Golf Metal Is LIVE & Comes With A Great Promotion

Photobucket

Golf Metal is live!!!  This is the first all golf product released in the last 7 years.  Boxes contain (2) base cards and (3) autographs.  When taking a look at some of the auctions, you can clearly see collectors have been missing a product like this.

The list of big pulls just goes on and on!!!
Leaf also has an interesting promotional program to go along with their release of Golf Metal.  Any collector that sends in the bar code off the bottom of their box of Golf Metal will receive a 3-card pack in return.  The pack will have (3) Leaf Limited base cards, and you can look for randomly inserted redemption cards. These can be redeemed for full-size pieces of golf memorabilia.  Leaf has items such as golf clubs owned by Michael Jordan and tournament used clubs by Jack Nicklaus.  Click on the flyer below for all the details on the program.

Photobucket

Behind The Art Card: Interview With Sport Kings Lead Portrait Painter Jared Kelley

Photobucket
This is an exclusive first look at Sport Kings Series E that will be released later this year.  This Rocky Marciano painting is just one of many that Jared Kelley created for Sport Kings Series E.
Jared Kelley is considered one of the most influential artists within the trading card industry.  He is currently the Lead Portrait Painter for Sport Kings, LLC and is the man behind many of those Upper Deck Goodwin Masterpieces containing beautiful hand painted portraits of the nation’s Presidents.    Collectors have really reacted to his work, and I think its safe to say he will be involved within the hobby for many years to come.  Mr. Kelley was nice enough to take the time out of his busy schedule and answer a few questions about his artwork and his involvement within the trading card industry.  I hope you will enjoy!
  • What is it about portraiture that you find so interesting?
I like the challenge the most! I don’t know if every artist is like me, but I have always been entertained with puzzles; crosswords, sudoku, Rubik’s Cube, chess, riddles, etc. Portraits provide me with the same level of entertainment, if not more so. When an artist paints a portrait, he doesn’t start by painting an “eye”. He starts by painting a shape. Every inch of the model is composed of nothing more than shapes. The bone structure, the shadows, the folds in the clothing, are all simple geometric equations that are noticed and solved in the artist’s perception. Many people are surprised to know how well they CAN paint when they are taught to think in terms of shapes, and not objects. It’s a great puzzle that the artist pieces together and this is what I find so fulfilling. Very similar to the sense of accomplishment most men experience when they’ve finished assembling a bookshelf from Ikea and notice that they only ended up with 3 critical pieces of hardware that were overlooked and no more.
  • When capturing an individual’s portrait, what do you find to be the most difficult part of the painting process?

When you understand that a portrait is essentially a puzzle with varying numbers of pieces, then no painting is difficult because it’s a “portrait” per se. The difficulty for me is more in determining how many “pieces” the puzzle will require to be complete. This is always a case by case situation and can be affected by deadlines, time constraints, ability to focus on any given day, and of course the person posing. All of these elements can affect the production of a portrait. If a portrait seems “difficult” on any given day, I find that an added measure of shear determination is the best remedy. The work’s gotta get done; no excuses!

  • If you would have had instructors proficient in portraiture, how do you think your work might differ from what it is today?
I work in acrylic for a few reasons. First, when I was a younger newlywed and just starting out in life, my work space was essentially an apartment broom closet. For that reason, the smell of oils and solvents wasn’t very appealing to have in the home, so I started to lean heavily towards acrylics because of their non-toxicity and solvent free clean-up. If I had the opportunity, I would have loved to have had instruction on traditional portraiture using oils. Though acrylics have come along way since their advent in the 50’s, nothing replaces the body of an oil paint. I would have loved to learn the uses of the various oil mediums and the best techniques for layer applications, none of which was taught to me in college. Bummer.
  • Since becoming involved in the trading card industry, what has been your favorite miniature sports art project that you have worked on? Why?
Without a doubt, unequivocally, the Sport Kings Series E set that I am currently doing. I started painting my first sketch cards back in late 2010 for Upper Deck. Since that time, my comfort level for working in small scale has greatly increased. Also, as with everything in life, I’ve learned by experience what works better when creating these little masterpieces. Since I signed on with Sport Kings Gum, LLC (www.sportkingsgum.com) I have employed new techniques that have taken these latest cards to a higher level of excellence. The Sport Kings series will be well worth the high dollar amounts that each painting will surely sell for at auction. I love adding little “extras” to the cards to help increase the rarity factor for the collectors. For example, in the Upper Deck Goodwin Masterpiece paintings, some of the backgrounds were different than others and, in the case of the George Washington cards, there were singular pieces of glitter embedded into the eyes of Washington so that the card sparkled slightly when the collector held it. Of course, collectors have noticed that I choose to gold leaf the edged of my favorite cards. This tradition will be maintained in the Sport Kings paintings, which will feature gold edges on every portrait since no painting will have multiple copies offered. Just 1 of 1’s. There will be plenty of additional “extras” amid the cards in this set. I’m very hyped to see the market’s reaction to such a great set of cards.
  • Is there anything special you have to keep in mind when working on a project for a trading card manufacturer?
Deadlines, deadlines, deadlines!!! Since each project entails its own set of circumstances, and given the fact that I am still very fresh to the sketch card scene, the biggest learning curve for me is simply calculating the time needed for completion. There’s no real science to determining the time you’ll need to hand paint such a large number of cards. When you’re trying to figure it out it can feel like throwing a dart at a board while you wear a blindfold and praying that you hit the bull’s-eye. Obviously you’re going to have to adapt to circumstances as you embark on the project. For me, I would estimate that a card takes 3-4 hours each to go from blank stock (nothing but graphics on the back and bottom front) to finished product. Now, multiply those hours by 500 and you’ll start to appreciate the effort that goes into such a high caliber product.
  • What upcoming projects within the trading card industry are you currently working on and look forward to seeing hit collectors’ hands?  Why?
I plan to work on the subsequent “Series” editions for Sport Kings. I was strongly drawn to Sport Kings preservation of and loyalty to artwork in their products. They are a growing force in the trading card world and I hope to stay onboard their ship for years to come. The degree of excellence to which Dr. Brian Price (Owner/CEO) aims for all of his products, including the In The Game and Famous Fabrics sets (www.itgtradingcards.com), (www.famousfabrics.com), is what I admire most and hope to emulate in my work. When a collector pays $3000 for one of my cards I want that collector to feel confident that he/she just secured a quality product which will only increase in value as time rolls on.
  • Looking back, what are some of the more memorable pieces of work that you have done?  Why?
I am a huge American History buff and love patriotic themes. The chance to paint the Founding Fathers for the Upper Deck set was a thrill! I have to say, however, my favorite sketch card painting thus far has to be the trophy Washington Card, which Famous Fabrics will be giving away to the first collector to acquire all 96 cards in the 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue set just released in late February. The biggest difference in that piece is the story being told in the background. By far, it’s the most detailed background I’ve painted on a card to date, though some of the Series E cards will have similarly active backdrops.
  • Are you a collector?  If so, what do you collect?
I don’t collect anything besides plaque in the arteries and scorn from my two cats. This has been part of the excitement for me upon my introduction to the hobby. Apart from the cool experience of painting on a trading card, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some really awesome collectors who have turned into good friends. I’ve been so touched by the warm fanfare given to my work in the hobby, that I have even featured the names of supporters in several of the Series E portraits. It’s my way of expressing my appreciation for the collectors. I will admit to “breaking” my first two boxes of cards when the Goodwin Masterpieces came out. I’m sure I’ll be doing the same with each new release from Sport Kings. Who knows, I may become a full fledged collector yet! In the end, I love what I do!

Interview With Washington Nationals Pitching Prospect Ryan Tatusko

Photobucket
Ryan Tatusko is a RHP in the Washington Nationals organization.  Collectors can find his first baseball cards in 2011 Bowman Chrome, and he will have autographed cards in some of Panini’s new MLBPA licensed products.
Ryan was kind enough to take the time and answer a few questions for Sports Card Info.  Be sure to follow him on Twitter and check out his blog – Welcome to the Backfields.  Enjoy!
  • Which current MLB player would you like to pitch against the most?

The current pitcher that I would love to pitch against right now would have to be Justin Verlander. The kind of pitching repertoire that he has I think is unmatched in Major League Baseball.  Anytime a pitcher can win the Most Valuable Player award obviously is someone that is going to be a force to be reckoned with on the mound.  I think going against Verlander right now would be an honor, but obviously just being in the big leagues and being able to pitch against any pitcher at that level would be an incredible experience for me.

  • What is your most memorable on-field experience since becoming a professional ball player?

The most memorable on-field experience since becoming a professional baseball player would have to be the no-hitter that I took into the ninth inning against the Modesto Nuts at their home field in the California League.  I was very fortunate and had an amazing defense by me that night and I carried a no-hitter with one out into the ninth inning where I proceeded to give up a base it right up the middle on a 2-1 fastball. That game still resonates very loud in my mind and I still look back on that as probably the most fun pitching experience that I’ve had in professional baseball.  What made that experience even more special was after the no-hitter was broken up the away crowd gave me a standing ovation for a couple minutes for taking the no-hitter into the ninth.

  • What lessons have you learned on the field that you can apply to off the field?

Things that I have learned off the field that I carry on the field are hard work, patience, and humility.  I think those are the three key qualities that you have to have in order to become a good professional baseball player, especially one that spends some time in the minor leagues.  The hard work being one of the most important qualities because there’s so many people that are competing for the same job at every position, that you have to do whatever you can to be ready at any moment to give your best.  Patience is key because you keep working in knowing that you have to know when you capitalize when it is your time, not getting too eager or anxious and wondering about what the next levels are like.  You got to live in your own moment at the level you are at, and try to do the best that you can.

  • Batters can sometimes do annoying things at the plate.  Is there anything batters do that annoy you?

Even though sometimes batters do annoying things at the plate, pitchers also do annoying things on the mound.  Things like stepping trying to disrupt the hitters timing, taking your time on the mound, or taking a long walk around the mound or playing with the rosin bags.  We also do things like calling the catcher to the mound.  You try not to notice the annoying things at the plate because they’re just trying to break you out of your time and disrupt your rhythms.  The first time you notice that the batters are doing something that’s incredibly annoying, then you know he has done his job by taking you out of your rhythm.

  • What is your favorite and least favorite pitch to throw?

My fastball is my favorite, especially when I am feeling incredibly good with it.  I love throwing it because I can get to cut a little nit, and also make it run.  I dislike throwing anything that isn’t working that day.  Sometimes you have a fastball curveball that’s working for you that day, and sometimes a fastball changeup, and you know that when you’re curveball is not working and the catcher calls that pitch in a critical count you have to somehow find the confidence to make it a strike and throw it with confidence.

  • What expectations to you have for yourself in the 2012 season?

Expectations that I have for myself in 2012 are to continue what I was building on in 2011.  I was very fortunate to go to winter ball down to Venezuela and work on my mechanics.  I think that was probably some the most invaluable experience that I could have received.  Not only did I get to work on mechanics with pitching coaches who have never seen me before, and may have a few different tweaks and suggestions that maybe other pitching coaches might not have found, but I got to use those tweaks in a game setting.  I started to really get my motion and my rhythm in AAA towards the end of the year in 2011 and pitching coach Greg Booker had a lot to do with that.   He continued to work with me in the bullpen and help me out, and provided me mental and physical tweaks.  I think that he helped me immensely so I’m really looking forward to getting to work with him this year and hopefully just building on what I was doing in 2011 because I really feel like I was starting to head on the right path.

  • What are some of the highlights of your personal collection?  What would you like to add?

I’ve been blessed to have multiple highlights in professional baseball one being that I talked about before; taking the no-hitter into the ninth inning, being able to go down to Venezuela and play winter ball was an extreme highlight of my professional career, and I had an absolute blast touring the country and seeing the culture. The fans were first class and the players and coaching staff were just all incredible.  I would absolutely love to be able to do it again.  I was also traded in my career and that was a memory that will forever be ingrained in my mind.  I got to learn a different organization and work with new coaches which were able to make me a better baseball player.  I’ve played in the American and National League organizations, and I’ve been able to take a few at-bats in the long relief appearances I’ve had.  Getting my first professional hit while in AA in Harrisburg was a big memory for me as well.  I look forward to creating new memories as I continue to play baseball and hopefully these memories will include some really great highlights in the major leagues.

Topps Gains A Friend As Upper Deck Loses One

In 2012 collectors can look for Ken Griffey, Jr autographs to starting popping out of their Topps packs.  That’s right, I said Topps.  Topps landed a deal with “The Kid” and his first Topps autographs will be included in ’12 Tribute and ’12 Gypsy Queen.

Photobucket

Photobucket

For years Upper Deck products were the only place you could pull a Griffey, Jr autograph.  With Upper Deck’s baseball card making days in the past, and Topps having the only MLB license, it makes perfect sense why they would sign him.

Having this kind of news come out today is just another indication of how Upper Deck is falling apart.  I don’t know how they’re surviving.  Hockey and soccer must really be bringing in the dough.  I hope they can hold on and regain their baseball license once again because I think Upper Deck makes extremely good looking products.  It’s been awhile since I’ve opened an Upper Deck product at all.

I’d like to see Leaf make a deal with “The Kid”.  He has an excellent fan base where a product like Pete Rose Legacy would work.  In addition to that, I’m sure nobody would be apposed to seeing a Griffey, Jr signed Valiant card.  His Crusade inserts are some of the most popular from the 90’s.  Can you imagine what an autographed version would be worth?  Many people say unlicensed baseball products just don’t work.  I respectfully disagree.  They can be quite successful as long as the manufacturer doesn’t go about making them as if they were licensed.  You have to go at it with a unique perspective in mind.  Leaf does this very well.

The card pictured below just screams irony 🙂

Photobucket

Hobby Interview: Leaf President Brian Gray

Photobucket

Leaf President, Brian Gray was nice enough to answer a few questions for Sports Card Info today.  With the release of Valiant this week, I just had to catch up with him.  I hope you enjoy!

  • What separates Leaf from all the other card manufacturers?

Leaf is founded on one simple principle. Be what the other manufacturers aren’t while giving collectors what the other manufacturers won’t.

We are a 100% customer driven company. We do not rest on laurels of our history. We fight every day to make compelling products and provide the best service in the industry.

Plus, I collect too! I can assure you most owners of manufacturers in this market do NOT collect. How can they have a customer/collector driven vision, when they don’t even collect?

  • When it comes to releasing a new product, you truly listen to what collectors want to see.  Why do you think this is so difficult for other companies?

Honestly, it isn’t hard at all. The problem is that bigger companies have systems and red tape that makes being flexible for customers difficult. I don’t think collectors should have to settle for bad customer service just because a company is big. Or, they shouldn’t have to deal with checklist switcharoos because a manufacturer has an exclusive.

  • Since taking over the Leaf brand in 2010, what has been your favorite project you have worked on?  Why?

Working on Muhammad Ali products was amazing for me. First, I love Muhammad! He is a true hero of sports and an idol to millions worldwide. In addition, I learned a great deal in preparing these products and added Ali to my PC (personal collection).

  • Ichiro has been a huge draw for collectors opening your newest baseball products.  Do you have plans to incorporate any more active MLB players within your products?

Yes, we will be announcing another deal in the coming weeks. I am so excited to add “championship” talent to our roster.

  • Resurrecting the popular Crusade design from the 90’s was a great idea.  What other insert designs would you like to see make a comeback?

There are so many.  In 2012, Leaf will be exploring many lost (and some new) technologies in bringing that unappreciated era back to the forefront.  Plus, look for 1990 Leaf and 1948 Leaf designs to make appearances.

  • If you had to open a Leaf product right now, what would it be?

For resale value, 2011 Leaf Valiant Baseball… 10 autos with Ichiros at that level are crazy… plus I love that old Crusade design!

As a collector, Muhammad Ali Metal. It is underappreciated in the market and I would take this opportunity to break wax and use eBay/stores to fill sets while prices are reasonable.

  • Which vintage Leaf product do you find the most interesting?

1948 Leaf. Simple set with simple art that changed cards. The first color post-war baseball set was huge. We will be celebrating this in 2012.

  • Do you have a personal collection?  If so, what is in it and what is your favorite piece?

Yes… too much to itemize. I have an extensive presidential autograph collection, but frankly my favorite items are pictures of me and our personalities together signed… Ali, Tyson, etc…

I would like to thank Mr. Gray for taking the time to answer my questions.  Leaf has been releasing some great stuff and I look forward to what the future brings.

On a side note, I noticed that a Hak-Ju Lee 2011 Valiant autograph popped-up for sale and was signed in silver ink.  I asked Mr. Gray if there were any ink variations within Valiant and he said there were none.  Lee just happened to pick-up the wrong pen.

Photobucket

Panini Reaches A Deal With The MLBPA

Panini has reached an agreement with the MLBPA so they can start to make more baseball cards.  They won’t be able to use team names or logos which is a pain, but it’s definitely not the end of the world.  A little more competition within the baseball card market couldn’t hurt.  Competition should be good for collectors as long as the manufacturers listen to their customers.  Panini has released some very popular unlicensed baseball products in the past such as Elite Extra Edition and Century Collection.  Given this new deal with the MLBPA I would like to see another high-end product like Century Collection brought to the market.  That was one of my favorite products of 2010 (even though it was released in 2011).  For some crazy reason, I’m predicting a Prime Cuts resurrection.

Photobucket

Panini will be taking advantage of their new MLBPA license in 2011 Elite Extra Edition and 2011 Contenders Baseball.  Contenders Baseball looks to have a wood grain theme to its design based on the Josh Hamilton card above.  It reminds me of ’87 Topps.  Its going to be interesting to see what Panini can whip up.